An international vacation is one of the most rewarding experiences you can embark upon whether you do so with your family or as a lone wolf. One of the most intriguing options for aspiring world travelers across the Western World is Japan. As you travel through Japan cities, you will see the past clash with a vibrant present and an ultra-modern future, all in a corner of the Far East with a rich and distinct culture.
Below we have furnished a succinct guide to the best Japan cities to visit, what to do once you are there, and some general information about tourism in Japan.

Japan Cities: FAQ

1. Is Japan a Safe Country to Visit?

Japan is consistently ranked as one of the safest, if not the safest, country in the world; and their bustling capital has the lowest crime rate of any such major city on the planet. You have no reason to worry about crime in Japan cities. All you have to do is enjoy your trip.

2. What Is There to Do in Japan?

Japan has a little bit of everything. There are numerous temples and shrines throughout the country which connect the modern nation with its extensive history, some of the most widely lauded cuisine in the world, and every imaginable iteration of modern and post-modern style in everything from architecture to fashion.

3. Is Travel to Japan Difficult?

Due to extensive political and economic ties between Japan and the United States, there are direct flights from cities all over the country to Tokyo. Prices have decreased year after year, making Japan one of the most affordable countries to visit in Asia in terms of the requisite airfare.

4. Do I Need a Visa to Visit Japan?

With a passport from the United States, Canada, or the European Union, you can stay in Japan for up to 90 days without a visa provided you can show proof of onward travel when you arrive in Japan. Simply present your return ticket to the relevant immigration official.

5. Is Traveling Within Japan Difficult?

Domestic travel in Japan is simple and affordable. The Japanese train system is extensive and serves every major city in the country with minimal transfers and excellent views of the country along the way. Domestic flights are also widely available and fairly cheap in case you need to expedite your excursion.

How We Reviewed

We reviewed a wide range of information available through the Japan Tourism Agency, major publications that cover the travel and tourism industries, travel blogs authored by a diverse set of globetrotters, and travel agencies in the United States and Canada known for facilitating travel to the Far East.

Overall Price Range

In terms of price, Japan is a mixed bag. As we mentioned, airfare to Japan is reasonable from many airports in North America, but once you arrive in Japan the prices are fairly high compared to other Asian destinations like Thailand or Vietnam. That being said, Japan is far safer and cleaner than any other country in East Asia and it has a lot more variety than most other countries in the region.

What We Reviewed

  • Tokyo
  • Kyoto
  • Beppu
  • Osaka
  • Sapporo
  • Sendai
  • Yokohama
  • Takayama
  • Nagasaki
  • Kanazawa

Tokyo

About

Naturally, Tokyo deserves the top spot on our list. This massive metropolis has futuristic skyscrapers, decades-old temples, Michelin starred restaurants, and fish markets larger than some of the country’s smaller cities. Even if you are not the type of person who enjoys a busy city, you will find some portion of the sprawling city that speaks to your taste.

Things to Do

  • Visit the Imperial Palace and Meji Shrine for a taste of Shogunate Japan
  • Shop until you drop at the massive malls of Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Ginza
  • Climb the Tokyo Tower and gaze out upon the world’s largest city

More Info

https://www.gotokyo.org/en/index.html

Kyoto

About

Before Tokyo became the capital of the country, Kyoto was home to the Shogun and his court for centuries of Japan’s history. Like many Japan cities, you will be struck by the modern core of the city, but, when you begin exploring, you will soon find that Kyoto’s reputation as Japan’s most beautiful city is well-deserved. Kyoto is home to more temples and shrines than any other city in the country.

Things to Do

  • Take a tour of Kyoto’s Imperial Palaces and Villas
  • Visit in springtime to see the stunning cherry blossoms bloom throughout the city
  • Relax at one of the luxurious public baths

More Info

First Time In Kyoto

Beppu

About

Beppu is an ideal destination for travelers who like a less chaotic and more obscure city known for its excellent hot springs. In addition to the many “onsens,” or Japanese hot spring bathing houses throughout the city, the coastal mountain views in Beppu are second to none.

Things to Do

  • Visit the eight volcanic, steaming “hells” on Beppu’s surrounding mountains
  • Bathe in one of the city’s luxurious “onsens”
  • Take the ropeway to the summit of Mt. Tsurumi and enjoy the view of Beppu Bay

More Info

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4700.html

Osaka

About

Based on its central location and easy access to Osaka Harbor, Osaka has been an important mercantile hub in Japan since the 16th century. The city eventually earned the moniker “The Nation’s Kitchen” due to the central role it played in distributed rice and other staple food items to every corner of the country. As such, it is perhaps the best of the Japan cities in which to eat.

Things to Do

  • Stroll through the Osaka Castle after a picnic at the Naniwa Palace Site Park
  • Enjoy Japan’s national sport at the Sumo Spring Grand Tournament
  • Enjoy the practice of “kuidaore:” eating yourself to ruin in the Dotonburi neighborhood

More Info

Your Osaka Travel Guide

Sapporo

About

Sapporo is a young city by Japanese standards, meaning it has little to offer in the way of traditional architecture; however, on the northern island of Hokkaido, the climate is such that Sapporo experiences beautiful summers and snow-filled winters ideal for winter sports in the surrounding facilities.

In addition to its natural beauty, Sapporo is where Japanese beer culture was born and the city remains the epicenter of hoppy delights in the country.

Things to Do

  • Sample a few brews at the Sapporo Beer Museum
  • Ski or snowboard on the fresh powder at nearby Niseko
  • Appreciate the massive ice sculptures at the Sapporo Snow Festival

More Info

http://www.sapporo.travel/?lang=en

Sendai

About

Sendai, the City of Trees, has a more moderate climate than most Japan cities, making it the ideal place for a relaxing stroll through town regardless of the season. Visitors to Sendai can comfortably spend the morning on the shores of the Pacific ocean before an afternoon in the foothills of the scenic Ou Mountains between which rests the entire city.

Things to Do

  • Center yourself with at a meditation meeting in the stunning Rinno-ji Temple
  • Enjoy the fireworks during the lively Tanabata festival in the first week of August
  • Munch on the local specialty: “gyutan,” grilled cow tongue

More Info

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5150.html

Yokohama

About

Situated just across the Tokyo Bay from the nation’s capital, Yokohama is the second most populous of Japan cities and the urban area most welcoming to foreigners, likely because the city was the first port opened to foreign trade just before the Meiji Restoration and the opening of Japan.

The Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 and the fire bombing during World War II took a toll on the city’s historical sites, but Yokohama’s modern achievements are plentiful and impressive.

Things to Do

  • Dig through the knick-knacks on display in Yokohama’s Chinatown to find a budget souvenir
  • Catch a game at the massive Bay Stars baseball stadium
  • Take in an impromptu street performance in Yamashita Park

More Info

http://www.yokohamajapan.com/

Takayama

About

Situated beneath the Japanese Alps and filled with well-preserved streets and architecture from the Edo era of Japan’s history, Takayama is perhaps the best of Japan cities for history buffs and nature lovers in need of a relaxing trip. The city’s secondary claim to fame is its reputation for producing the best ramen dishes in the country: a high honor in Japanese culture.

Things to Do

  • Enjoy the parade of floats at either of the biannual Matsuri festivals
  • Visit the Hida Folk Village for a taste of life in medieval Japan
  • Admire the illuminations in the Great Limestone Cave of Hida

More Info

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5900.html

Nagasaki

About

Based on its limited contact with foreign traders during Japan’s extensive period of isolation, Nagasaki is one of the few Japan cities bearing the hallmarks of Dutch, Chinese, and Portuguese influence. Unlike Hiroshima, Nagasaki reclaimed its pre-war identity as a diverse, international port city after the nuclear bomb ruined huge swaths of the city in 1945, making at a unique destination compared to other Japan cities.

Things to Do

  • Climb Mt. Inasa for breath-taking city and mountain views
  • Enjoy the company of tuxedoed penguins at the Nagasaki Aquarium
  • Take in the Lantern Festival during Japanese Lunar New Year

More Info

https://www.discover-nagasaki.com/

Kanazawa

About

From a tourism standpoint, Kanazawa is the most overlooked of the Japan cities. Due its remote location, few tourists make it to Kanazawa, but those who do have the chance to appreciate Edo era architecture amid a compact, easily navigable city center that echos with the samurai and geisha, not to mention the highest quality seafood in Asia, if not the world.

Things to Do

  • Shudder at the thought of ritual suicide in the Ninja Temple’s “seppuku” chamber
  • Dine at one of the many sushi restaurants within the Omicho-ichiba fish market
  • Sip a cup of green tea on the banks of the Asano river

More Info

https://trip.pref.kanagawa.jp/

The Verdict

Regardless of where in Japan you hope to visit, you will likely have to fly in through Tokyo, which is worth a day or two of exploration even if you aren’t a big city lover. From there, you can direct your travels based on your interests. History buffs will appreciate Takayama and Kanazawa, foodies will feel most at home in Osaka, while snowboarders with a predilection for beer should head straight to Sapporo.

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